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Peter Novak Discusses New Campus Safety Program in San Francisco Chronicle

Think About It

An opinion piece about campus safety appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle spotlighted the University of San Francisco’s Think About It, an online training program developed to help colleges and universities reduce sexual violence and substance abuse.

Schools must go beyond the basic requirements of the 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act and Title IX to provide prevention and sexual awareness programs, according to Peter Novak, vice president for student life at USF, who authored the Aug. 24 editorial.

“Creating a new culture is the single largest challenge, as universities must contend with the many societal norms that have helped to shape students’ expectations of the traditional college experience,” said Novak. “We must push ourselves to break new ground in the prevention of harmful behavior.”

This fall incoming freshmen at USF and 170 other universities across the country will be using the interactive training program, which USF developed, in collaboration with online education company CampusClarity, over the last four years.

The program takes a harm-reduction — rather than an abstinence — approach that appears to resonate with students.

“The positive response from students here at USF and across the country has been phenomenal,” said Novak. “We are proud of the number of college and universities implementing Think About It on their campuses.”

Dissatisfied with the existing “online programs that failed to engage students,” USF set out to develop a course that prepared students for the unique challenges and responsibilities of college life, said Novak.

Think About It addresses four main topics: sexuality, drugs and alcohol, sexual violence, and healthy relationships. Incorporating realistic scenarios and issues, the program helps students reduce their risk by articulating the strong relationship between substance abuse and sexual assault without victim blaming and shaming students. It also addresses “the underlying cultural assumptions about power, relationships, and communication,” said Novak.

Think About It has won national awards, including a Gold Excellence Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), and a Gold Stevie® from the American Business Awards for best training website. It was established with the financial support of Phillip and Susan Marineau through the Marineau Family Foundation.

Written by Steven Chin